A Cut Above The Rest
Say Canal and most will think of waterways – but for people from Nottingham the word is just as likely to bring to mind the Canal Engineering Company, a local firm which, despite its name, has nothing whatsoever to do with barges and boats.
The 21st century's Canal Engineering Company began its life as a partnership formed in 1924 by two brothers-in-law, Percy H. Pratt and James Blackburn Buckley. Trading as P.H. Pratt & Co. they opened a sheet metal working shop at 75 Canal Street in Nottingham from where they specialised in ventilation and dust extraction ducting.
The Canal Street workshop was in several knocked through back-to-back houses set between Malt Mill Lane and Meadow Street: the neighbours cannot have been very pleased with the constant sound of hammers beating on sheet metal all day long.
By 1930 Percy Pratt had left the partnership leaving Jim Buckley in sole charge of a business which typically had its small staff working a 54 hour week. More than half the work came from Players, which continuously commissioned such things as guards for its cigarette machinery as well as copper and brass pipes, hoods and chutes; other notable customers in this period included Cammel Laird; until its Nottingham factory closed in 1931.
Slum clearance in the mid-1930s led to the demolition of Canal Street and new premises being acquired at Goodbands Yard at 3 Wilford Street. Though just 70ft by 35ft this new workshop seemed like a football pitch compared to the old premises in Canal Street.
The start of the Second World War ignominiously brought, at first, merely an order for galvanised ablution troughs for wooden army huts. But that would soon change: More war orders quickly followed, not least to produce components for flare clusters to be dropped by the RAF over bombing targets; orders for other parts of bombs soon arrived as well as work installing ventilation and ducting systems in the many factories engaged in war work.
Top left: A company outing in 1934. Right: A company outing in 1933. Below: staff ready to board the coach for a company outing in 1953.